Sunday, February 26, 2017

Taking Charge of our Learning

This week in 4L, we have spent a considerable amount of time taking a step back and reflecting on what we've learned, who we are as learners and what we'd like to achieve by the end of our year together. 

In unit, we wrapped up unit 3- Where We Are in Place and Time. The students were each inquiring independently into an area of individual interest. As we read and researched, we connected any new learning to our lines of inquiry by placing our thinking on collaborative mind maps and a timeline. 

After a week or so of independent inquiry, we used the Visible Thinking Routine: Generate, Sort, Connect and Elaborate to come up with our enduring understandings from the unit. 

Our enduring understandings were:

  • Each newer civilisation builds on or improves things from past civilisations.
  • We still use advanced versions of ancient tools and systems
  • There are similarities between past civilisations
  • Studying the past explains and gives logic to what we do today
On Friday, we finally got the chance to play ancient games with our visitor, Judita, from Viking Village. We were delighted to find some games there that we had actually read about during our independent inquiry time!

We then merged our thinking into beginning Unit 4- How We Express Ourselves. We began by watching videos of creation myths from different ancient civilisations and sharing them in small groups. As we shared in whole group, we looked for common themes. 

The students then collectively reflected on what the purpose of these myths might be. As we reflected on our learning from the past unit, we realised that every civilisation had one of these types of myths, and we connected it to their shared beliefs or religions. We pondered whether or not religion was STILL a part of 'civilisations' or society today. 

We decided to use the Visible Thinking Routine: Think, Puzzle, Explore to find a good place to tune in to Unit 4. 

First, the students were asked to share anything that came to mind when I mentioned the word 'religion'. 

Then, the students worked independently to create lists in their inquiry books about everything "I THINK I know about religion". We brainstormed and then chose one we thought would be most likely to start a conversation. This one we shared in whole group to add to our thinking chart. 

From here, we began to grow curious about what we heard from our peers or to share curiosities we already had. We created a second column in our notebooks where we now listed all the "Things that PUZZLE us about religion". Again, we generated these questions independently and chose one to write on a sticky note. This time we chose according to which question we thought might spark the deepest inquiry. 

Our questions were amazing! Some puzzles we have are:

  • Why do people need religion?
  • How do people know God really exists?
  • Why don't we practice ancient religions anymore?
  • How did religions spread?
  • Why do people have so many different beliefs and why can't they just agree on one of them?
  • If we found out myths were true, how would that impact scientific explanations?
  • How do people know that what they believe is true?
Finally, we ended with our Question of the Day where we shared "Ways we could EXPLORE our questions". 

We decided some good ways would be:
  • visit churches
  • talk to priests or religious leaders
  • read books
  • look online
  • interview people about their beliefs
  • ask people who have studied religion
  • ask our parents/grandparents
We are looking forward to student-led inquiry in this unit. The students will guide how we inquire throughout this study rather than being guided by the teacher. So far, we have chosen to spend two days looking through books to build some background knowledge and to prepare ourselves. 

At the end of each research session, we have reflected on an exit slip about what our next learning steps should be and why. It looks like next week we will head out of the classroom to find some individuals to talk to about our questions! We are nervous but excited about being in charge of our learning. 

In math, we have begun our study of multiplication in Unit 5. We have worked a great deal with estimation. We already reflected earlier in the year that estimation is a very handy tool in math because it helps you know whether or not your answer makes sense. We've been revisiting multiplication number talk strategies, as well, to see which ones are most effective when we encounter more complex problems. 

So far, we have decided that "multiplication wrestling" or "partial products" is an easy strategy for working with 2-digit times 2-digit problems such as: 
32 x 46

We played a game called "Multiplication Wrestling" to practice this skill but realised that this is really a pencil-paper algorithm and not a mental strategy for most of us.

When can the "partial products" method come in handy for mental math? We discovered this method works well when dealing with 2 or 3-digit times 1-digit problems such as: 
58 x 7

In language arts this week, we spent a lot of time reading 'Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin' together aloud. This is a fun book about the fairytale character Rumpelstiltskin told from his perspective. We love the humour in this book so far and the way it focuses on the backstory of the main character, rather than retelling the fairytale as we know it. Liesl Shurtliff has inspired our writing with vivid word choice, voice and use of imagery. 

In writing, we have finished our cycle on narrative writing. Most of us published one or more pieces during this cycle. We look forward to sharing them with you during our Student-Led conferences on Saturday! We spent time this week freely exploring different genres. Many of us went back to poetry or writing territories to add new ideas.

Though we did a lot of subject specific learning this week, a bulk of our time was spent in reflection. With upcoming conferences, we thought it was a good time to take a look back at our progress over the course of the year up to this point. 

We started by determining the purpose of meeting with our parents. We decided it was to show our growth. We shared some ideas about how we might document that.

Then, we decided a good place to start would be to reflect on our goals that we set in November. That reflection led us to share Who We Are right now. We spent time chatting about who we are at school vs. who we are at home, and how those might be different pictures for our parents. Then we got to work sorting out our thoughts on paper in whichever way we thought most effective.


This work helped us realise that we're quite proud of ourselves because, although we have challenges we're still working on, all of us have grown immensely since November when we last sat with our parents! Without prompting, most of us naturally created new goals for ourselves through this process, because that's what reflective learners do. We are excited to invite parents into our world of learning to share evidence of our growth. 

We also took time to reflect on how Genius Hour is going. When we checked in as a group, we realised several of us were struggling or feeling stuck. So we sought inspiration here:

We reflected on the big ideas from the video and some of us even shared where WE are on our rollercoaster ride of Passion Projects. 

We then decided it was worthwhile to take a bit of time, no matter how we're doing in our project work, to re-evaluate our passions. Perhaps we were being too narrow in our focus and we needed to branch out a bit. This inspired us to share our passions and have conversations with each other about what we're passionate about. 

During Genius Hour on Friday, we took the time to re-focus if we were feeling stuck. We had some serious conversations about the importance of resilience and commitment during independent inquiry. Some of us have agreed to work in 2 week cycles so that we're sure we stay focused and make progress. We have also decided that we need set routines to reflect more often so we don't find ourselves too far off our paths. We look forward to getting back on track with our inquiries and being inspired as our classmates present new, exciting learning journeys with us. 

Finally, on Thursday, we got the chance to celebrate our friend, Shourya's birthday! We wish him a wonderful 10th year ahead and hope he is having a blast at Disneyland! 

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